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Maryland Department of Natural Resources gives $1.5 million to preserve Deer Creek land

BY BRYNA ZUMER, bzumer@theaegis.com

1:34 PM EDT, August 27, 2013

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Harford County received $1.5 million in state grants to buy land easements in the Deer Creek Rural Legacy Area, continuing to make it one of the best-funded legacy areas in Maryland, Harford County's agricultural preservation head said.

Harford County received $1.5 million in state grants to buy land easements in the Deer Creek Rural Legacy Area, continuing to make it one of the best-funded legacy areas in Maryland, Harford County's agricultural preservation head said.

Sen. Barry Glassman, who represents Harford County and is running for county executive, announced the $1.5 million award on Friday.

The legacy area includes Norrisville, Rocks, Street and Darlington, ending just above Havre de Grace.

Its goal is to preserve the historic rural character of the Deer Creek Valley, protect its environmental quality and connect tracts of preserved properties and protected lands.

Bill Amoss, chief of agricultural and historical preservation for Harford County, said Monday the county will make offers to land owners in the area to put their properties in preservation.

He said the Deer Creek area also received slightly more than $1 million two years ago.

"It was a good surprise to us to get that much funding," Amoss said about the $1.5 million this year. "We were one of the highest [recipients] in the state."

In October 2012, the Deer Creek legacy area received $701,367 as part of a $5.6 million statewide grant for the Rural Legacy Program.

This year, the state gave out a total of $13.5 million, said Tom McCarthy, eastern and southern administrator for the state's rural legacy program.

The program uses Program Open Space funding, which is based on the real estate transfer tax, McCarthy said.

Amoss said Harford continues to get high levels of funding because it has been able to quickly process prospective sites for preservation, landowners are willing to take lower offers and a lot of the legacy area is already in preservation.

"Those big factors help us a lot each year," Amoss said.

The Deer Creek area "is an area that we have seen a lot of preservation taken place since the 1980s," he said. "The rural legacy tends to go after properties that are actually resources-based, in other words, they might have a lot of wildlife corridors or stream habitats."

About 50 percent of the 67,000 acres in the legacy area is permanently preserved through various state and county programs, according to a press release Glassman sent out.

Glassman has served on the General Assembly's Joint Subcommittee on Program Open Space & Agricultural Land Preservation.

Maryland's Rural Legacy Program provides the resources necessary to protect large, contiguous tracts of land and other strategic areas. It seeks to enhance the protection of agricultural, natural resource, forestry and environmentally-sensitive areas through cooperative efforts among state and local governments and land trusts.

"Preserving the land is just half of the battle. The other half is working to ensure that farming remains a viable industry by working to expand economic opportunities and fighting back against policies and regulations that hamper agricultural growth," Glassman said in the release. "So in addition to supporting land preservation, as county executive, I will place a renewed focus on protecting our existing businesses, and that includes agriculture."